I spent a couple of years in Montana when I was younger. That was when I first fell in love with cowboy boots. Living in the Big Sky Country can do that to you. Fast-forward to my later years and I’ve spent quite a bit of time remodeling various homes and even helping create some new additions. Whether you like a dress boot, work boot, or something in-between, we cover the very best cowboy boot brands for work and play.
In this article we plan to address quality, value (that includes pricing but so much more), and features. You may not think cowboy boots sport many “features”, but the last decade has brought more than a couple of innovations we want to highlight.
One last thing—you don’t have to live in Texas or Colorado to enjoy cowboy boots. I hail from Pennsylvania and spent a few years in South Carolina before permanently moving to Florida. Cowboy boots work just about anywhere. I’ve even seen them worn at a fair share of weddings—though that may not be your cup of tea! In either case, our main observation has been the increased presence of cowboy or western style boots on the jobsite. More and more, boot manufacturers and brands are finding new ways to bring the cowboy boot look to a legitimate work boot.
We love that—and it offers you a whole new way to look at these boot brands as you discover the best fit for your particular needs. Check out our recommendations below, and then grab a pair of boots (or two)—you won’t regret it!
Best Cowboy Boot Brand Overall
When you ask a loaded question like “Who makes the best cowboy boots overall” you need to prepare yourself for an in-depth explanation. We picked Ariat—not because other companies make inferior boots, but because Ariat has such widespread availability and pricing options. What exactly do we mean? Well, you can get Ariat boots for as low as $150 or as expensive as $800 or so. Other boot companies have less expensive boots. Still others have boots priced well above that. Few companies, however, have the wide range and appeal of Ariat.
We’ve looked at a number of Ariat boots, from their traditional Sport Herdsman boot to the Hybrid VentTEK western-style work boot (my current favorite). The fit is always exceptional, and the durability means they will last you a good long time. This goes triple if you take good care of them.
Best Cowboy Dress Boots
Asking who makes the best cowboy dress boots gets more complicated. You have more than a few great choices. Most require a significant outlay compared to more budget-minded brands. Still, this particular category deals with the best cowboy dress boots—not the most economical. Our answer to that has to be Lucchese (pronounced “loo-kay-see”). They have nearly a dozen materials to choose from, including ostrich, alligator and caiman, African and North American exotics, shark leather, and more.
Lucchese also has a fair variety of work boots and work-treaded western-style boots. Bonus. For their dress boots, however, you will have a hard time finding a more eclectic and varied set of options from around the world. Pricing ranges from $495 to nearly $16,000 per pair (handmade American alligator). If you can’t find something here, it may not exist!
Best Cowboy Boots for Men
We think the best cowboy work boots for men comes down to selection, value, and availability. For that, we love Tecovas. You can get basic boots priced less than $260 per pair all the way to more exotic boots just under $1000. Tecovas lacks the selection of some other brands, but we really like what they do offer. For one, they have a nice variety of materials that includes bison, goat, shark, ostrich, gator, python, suede, and more. You also don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for many of the exotics—at least not compared to other brands.
Tecovas also makes most of their boots look a lot more traditional than most. Where some companies pride themselves on making exotic boots that attract attention, Tecovas tends to focus on simply making a solid, durable boot. Most, in fact, maintain a brown or black overall look that goes well with dress pants or jeans. Sometimes we like limiting our choices.
Best Cowboy Boots for Women (Cowgirl Boots)
You can’t beat the selection of Justin women’s boots. From their colorful uppers to their many height options, Justin boots really has a lot for women looking for fashionable western wear boots. Justin also offers boots with various materials, including cowhide, suede, and even water buffalo. They also make a basic boot from recycled leather material.
Pricing ranges from less than $100 to around $260, making them rather affordable as well. If you want boots that make a statement, the options available at Justin boots should capture your imagination.
Best Cowboy Boots for Work
Having reviewed dozens of work boots throughout the years, I’ve recently re-found my love for western style work boots. Some would call these cowboy work boots. In either case, you can find these with nearly all the features of traditional 6-inch or 9-inch work boots. That includes an aggressive tread, comfortable insoles, and in the case of Ariat, vented uppers that let your feet breathe. This really matters during those hot months—and we live in Florida.
Ariat VentTEK boots impressed us with their truly hybrid (I might call it “stealthy”) approach to making the best cowboy boots for work. Where some manufacturers release western boots with super-thick aggressive soles and oversized square toes, Ariat makes their boots much more traditional in their appearance without sacrificing durability. Give them a try and see if you might not want to switch over to these for your work.
Best Square Toe Cowboy Boots
Everyone makes square toe cowboy boots. These offer a bit more toe room while minimizing the toe length. They give you, in my opinion, some additional durability and minimize the potential for damaging the very tip of the boot when stepping or pressing aggressively against a surface. Tony Lama, however, just seems to have the exact shape I love, plus they offer a ton of options, styles, materials, and colors.
The brand delivers boots in all the major leather materials and even several exotics like ostrich, caiman crocodile, and Pirarucu.
Best Cheap Cowboy Boots (Best Value)
Justin Boots has western models ranging in price from $125 to over $500. The company does, however, have a lot of choices for those looking for a sub-$200 cowboy boot. For that reason, we really like them as our best cowboy boots on-the-cheap pick. In terms of value, you can’t beat them.
Keep in mind, you can find less-expensive boots on Amazon, but they use imitation leather or suede that won’t be long for this world. When we recommend value boots, we do so with the sense that you actually want the pair to last more than a few months. Those $55 online boots simply won’t cut it. If the uppers and lowers don’t disintegrate, the sole will likely separate and fail prematurely with any serious wear.
Best Cowboy Boots for Wide Feet
Cavender’s, a boot retailer, probably has the greatest selection of EE-sized boots on the market. As a retailer, they carry (among other things) western boots from Ariat, Lucchese, Justin, Tony Lama, Laredo, Nocona, Rocky, and others. That gives you a ton of options as well as a lot of price ranges to choose from. We also like the advanced filtering available on the website.
Best American-made Cowboy Boots
Lucchese Boot Company
While several brands of cowboy boots are made in the United States, several stand out as having a rich history as well as a wide range of available options for a reasonable price. Lucchese (pronounced loo-kay-see) sits at the top of that list as a company that dates back to in 1883. Named after Italian immigrant, Salvatore Lucchese, the El Paso, Texas company uses time-honored techniques to build its boots largely by hand.
Other Boot Manufacturers Manufactured in the USA
- Tony Lama, Nocona Boots, and Chippewa, all fall under the Justin Brands umbrella (owned by Berkshire Hathaway) and are hand-made in El Paso, Texas. Justin has a few USA-made boots, but the large majority are sourced elsewhere.
- Rios of Mercedes includes Olathe, Anderson Bean, Macie Bean, and Horse Power and has handcrafted boots in Texas for more than 160 years (since 1853).
- Espinoza Boot Maker started back in 1990 and crafts boots to order in Phoenix, Arizona.
- Black Jack Boots hail from Texas and have made boots by hand since 1996.
- Olsen-Stelzer Boots started back in 1934 and cuts, stitches, and assembles all of its boots in Texas.
Best Custom-made Cowboy Boots
Similar to the above, these custom-made boots may source international skins. All the hand-made cutting, stitching, and assembly, however, takes place in Texas. Olsen-Stelzer dates back to 1934, but their start predates even that as one of the founders, Carl Olsen, an immigrant shoemaker from Norway, once worked for H.J. Justin of Justin Boots. Today, every boot ordered new from Olsen-Stelzer takes roughly 8-12 to produce and you can order from a myriad of skins, colors, and styles.
Best Steel Toe Cowboy Boots
Ariat Steel Toe
By far, as one of the most well-known brands, Ariat has the biggest and best selection of steel toe cowboy boots. For us, the choice goes beyond simply providing steel toe boot options, but actually giving you choices that look good on your feet. Ariat has several designs that we really love, including the Sierra Shock Shield Patriot, Groundwork Waterproof, WorkHog Patriot, and Sierra Wide Square Toe.
Ariat uniquely designs a variety of western-style work boot that don’t completely lose the look and feel of a true cowboy boot. Even better, the pricing makes these a real and viable alternative to traditional work boots. We love that and think you will too.
Best Cowboy Boots by Brand That You Can Buy Online
When you think about well-known cowboy boots, the Ariat brand name likely comes to mind. Ariat makes and sells boots in possibly the widest price range we’ve seen. You can get entry-level leather roper-style boots with a rubber sole for less than $160. On the high end, you can also find exotic Caiman boots with premium full-grain leather uppers for around $569. In between is a world of options.
Georgia Boot makes, in particular, a select few western (Wellington) work boots that we really like. Having tried the Carbo-Tec Wellington boots, we can highly recommend them for those looking for a waterproof and/or safety toe cowboy boot that doesn’t break your budget. About the only downside is the limited options and variations.
Similar to Ariat, Justin Boots makes a very wide variety of boots in different styles and materials. They range in price from $125 to around $300 or more. That keeps them well within reach for most people looking for a quality boot. As an added bonus, a handful of Justin boots are made in the USA. For higher end boots, check out other brands owned by Justin, including Tony Lama, Nocona Boots, and Chippewa.
Lucchese makes some beautiful, high-end cowboy boots that bridge the gap between one-off handmade and factory-produced models. They have everything from traditional leather to exotics made with ostrich, alligator, crocodile, and more. Pricing starts around $425 for most boots, so expect to pay more for quality cowboy boots from this brand.
If you thought Stetson just made hats, well…you’d be wrong. Stetson western cowboy boots have some of the most unique and rugged looks you can find. These are the boots the Marlboro Man would wear. My personal favorite are the various harness boots. Stetson makes boots in alligator, Caiman, ostrich, shark, suede, and various cow leathers. Pricing on Stetson cowboy boots ranges from $260 to $900 or more for their more exotic materials.
Tecovas handmakes their cowboy boots in León, Mexico. They make their boots in a variety of types and sole styles, including Horseman, Snip, Wedge sole, Roper, Cowboy, and Square toe. They also make Zip and Chelsea western-style shoes. For the most part, Tecovas favor a classic design that doesn’t easily go out of style. Pricing ranges from around $250 to just under $1000. Most of their exotic boots fall in the range of $345–$595 range, however. Tecovas makes boots from Bison, Calf/Cow, Goat, Shark, Ostrich, Alligator, Lizard, Python, and Suede.
Tony Lama hails from the Justin Brands company but specializes in Western boots that provide a lot of colorful options. In fact, they let you filter by overall boot color, vamp color, and upper color in addition to skin material. While a majority of the boots use cowhide, they do have select boots made with more exotic materials like Piraruchu, Teju Lizard, Caiman, and Ostrich. Pricing ranges from $240 to $600 or more. If you like a colorful boot, definitely head on over to Tony Lama.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Break in a Pair of Cowboy Boots?
Breaking on a pair of cowboy boots involves helping the boots better conform to the contours of your feet. That’s what we mean by “break-in”. The oidea is that any pair of boots gets more confortable once you work through this process. Some shoes feel great out-of-the-box, but ALL boots improve over time as you wear them. The trick is speeding up the process!
Assuming you have the right size (your toes have wiggle-room), start the break-in process by wearing your boots around the house for 3–4 hours a day (If you work, start on a weekend). You also want to wear a thicker pair of socks at first. This helps protect your feet while helping stretch the boots more quickly.
After a few days to a week, start taking short walks, gradually increasing the distance as your boots begin to loosen up. Remember, no boots should hurt your feet. Hopefully, your boots started out feeling comfortable. However, wear them for too many hours at a time, and you may feel it. This process simply makes them better and gives them a chance to soften up and acclimate.
Like a baseball glove, you can also expedite the breaking in process by using a conditioning oil or leather softener. Apply these products to the areas on your boots that feel tight or otherwise need to flex. This helps soften the leather and encourage pliability. Be sure you check with the boot material to avoid any potential damage. Consider trying out the oil on a less conspicuous area of the boot first.
Try to enjoy the process of breaking in a pair of cowboy boots. Before too long, your boots will feel like they were perfectly molded to your feet!
What are the Best Socks to Wear with Cowboy Boots?
While you can really pair any socks with a pair of cowboy boots, we prefer socks that offer a snug fit. It may also help to select socks with moisture-wicking properties. You can also grab a pair with a reinforced heel and toe to give you more or less cushioning as needed. They really help when breaking in a new pair of boots.
Hikers really like Merino wool socks. These sheep-wool socks feel nice against your skin, and they provide a lot of cushioning. Merino wool is naturally breathable, moisture-wicking, and they offer insulation for colder times of the year. Because they breathe, you can even wear some types in hotter climates like Florida—just not the thicker versions.
We tend to recommend synthetic socks. Polyester or CoolMax (a type of polyester with a larger surface area) wick moisture away from the skin while keeping your feet dry. We also think they feel just as comfortable as wool if you get the right pair. It goes without saying, but avoid low-cut socks when wearing cowboy boots as your calves can sweat if they come in contact with the leather uppers.
What’s the Best Way to Clean Cowboy Boots?
With regular cleaning, you should find that your cowboy boots look good and last a very long time. Most cowboy boot brands offer cleaning guidelines with every boot sold. Maintaining the longevity and aesthetic appeal of cowboy boots requires regular cleaning. Start by removing loose dirt using a soft brush. For stubborn dirt, use a damp cloth, but avoid soaking the leather. For boots made of exotic materials, use a cleaner specifically designed for that material. Once clean, apply a conditioner to keep the leather supple and prevent cracking. Always allow your boots to dry naturally, away from direct heat or sunlight, which can cause the leather to shrink or warp. For added protection, consider using a waterproofing spray. Remember to clean the soles as well, using a stiff brush to remove caked-on dirt. Regular cleaning not only keeps your boots looking their best, but also extends their lifespan.
What are the Different Leather Types (Skins) for Cowboy Boots?
When you think about the best cowboy boots, you may think it has to do with the quality of cowhide used. In fact, cowhide represents merely one type of skin or leather used to make cowboy boots. We’ve seen boots crafted from a wide variety of leathers and skins. Each offers its own look and characteristics and each cowboy boot brand has its own selections. Below is a short list of some of the materials and their basic characteristics to help you decide which to go with—keep in mind that more exotic skins and leathers increase the price of your boots considerably!
- Cowhide – The most common material, cowhide boots give you a durable and relatively affordable cowboy boot.
- Calfskin – This variant of cowhide possesses a smoother finish and is easier to break in than most materials.
- American Alligator (also Caiman Crocodile) – As you might imagine, this skin possesses a rather unique texture and delivers excellent durability. Manufacturers can use either the belly or the tail.
- Ostrich – This leather delivers a soft, flexible boot with a truly distinctive pattern.
- Snakeskin – Typically rattlesnake or python, snakeskin has a unique, patterned appearance.
- Stingray – One of the most durable leathers available, stingray has a unique, almost pebbly texture. It also stands out with a more reflective surface than most exotics.
- Shark – Once you tan sharkskin, it becomes very tough and resistant to scuffs and damage. The downside on this skin is that it doesn’t flex easily.
- Elephant – This skin gives you an extremely durable boot that resists cracking. For those interested, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa (all countries I have visited, incidentally) have relatively stable elephant populations, so these boots are not coming from any endangered species.
- Lizard – Typically made from Teju and Ring lizards, these boots have a bold a unique, uniform scale pattern that ends up being more affordable than many other exotic leathers.
- Pirarucu Fish – Pirarucu boots have a very distinctive look—often with a super-rough texture that rises off the surface of the boot. Pirarucu fish live in the Amazon and their skin makes for a durable, but also flexible, cowboy boot.
Keep in mind that each type of boot leather or skin has its own varying requirements for care. Because of the unique qualities of each, be sure to follow the boot manufacturer’s instructions for maintaining the look and appearance of your boots.
Who Makes the Most Exotic Cowboy Boots?
When it comes to exotic cowboy boots, you can go by either the styling or the materials used—perhaps both. We can’t really pin the most exotic to a single best cowboy boot manufacturer or brand, but we do have some opinions. First of all, Lucchese makes some incredibly high-end cowboy boots we find hard to top. Cavenders also provides many exotic options, including full quill ostrich and elephant. If you want kangaroo on the “menu”, check out Espinoza boots.
In terms of the most exotic skin style, ostrich and (real) elephant top our list. If you want an exotic boot that differs from leather but doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, try Teju lizard. Kangaroo also shows up periodically and represents a very tough, yet thin, leather that most people have never seen on a cowboy boot.
When going for exotic boot materials and skins, watch out for inexpensive “stamped” leather boots. Those simply have the design and look of more exotic materials. You can typically tell the difference by the price.
How Do You Care for Cowboy Boots?
You want to properly care for your cowboy boots so you extend their lifespan and keep them looking great. We recommend cleaning your boots regularly. This helps remove dirt and dust and can be done with a soft brush or damp cloth. Most of the best cowboy boot brands offer recommendations for caring for their products after the sale.
If you encounter more significant stains, seek out a cleaner that works with your particular boot material. The last thing you want to do is damage your exotic boots by using something designed for traditional leather or synthetics. Consider—as allowed or recommended—applying a conditioner to keep the leather or skin as supple as possible. You want to make sure your boots don’t dry out over time and develop cracks.
Some boots may benefit from the use of a waterproofing spray to help protect them against rain and light snow. You also want to care for the soles. With most cowboy boots you can replace them when they wear out. Apply some periodic care and you can expect to wear your cowboy boots for many years.